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by CTuttle

MENA Mashup: Martyrs, Hawks, Patriots, and the Turkish Tempest

5:31 pm in Uncategorized by CTuttle

You know it’s bad when both the Left, and, the Right, agree to despair… Obama Appoints “Humanitarian Interventionists” to Key Positions, The Return of the Liberal Hawks, and, Genocide Twins Come On Board…!

Now, as the ever intrepid, Pepe Escobar, penned recently…

Meet the ‘Friends of Jihad’

Western politicos love to shed swamps of crocodile tears about “the Syrian people” and congratulate themselves within the “Friends of Syria” framework for defending them from “tyranny”.

Well, the “Syrian people” have spoken. Roughly 70% support the government of Bashar al-Assad. Another 20% are neutral. And only 10% are aligned with the Western-supported “rebels”, including those of the kidnapping, lung-eating, beheading jihadi kind.

The data was provided mostly by independent relief organizations working in Syria. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) received a detailed report in late May – but, predictably, was not too keen on releasing it…

…So who cares what the “Syrian people” might think? The Western “Friends of Syria” could not have found a more willing golden patsy to promote their usual, self-fulfilling Divide and Rule gambit – the Sunni-Shi’ite divide. It’s always handy to have dysfunctional GCC petro-monarchies posing as “liberators” so the West once again may conduct a proxy war “leading from behind”…

As it stands, the Geneva II negotiations promoted by Washington and Moscow seem to be as good as six feet under (although they are getting together today to define the framework).

The European Union has lifted its arms embargo on Syria – a move that was essentially a Franco-British delirium that went over the heads of reluctant EU members. It had to be Britain and France, of course, the two former imperial powers that almost a century ago carved up a line in the sand dividing the Levant and now want a redesign.

This would mean, in practice, that the EU has declared war on Damascus. Well, sort of. Under the EU agreement, no weaponizing will go on before autumn. And the belligerent Franco-British duo has to make sure any weapons are used only to protect civilians. Who will supervise this – a bunch of Brussels bureaucrats in army fatigues? Well, they can always revert to default – ask for American help. Every grain of sand in the Levant knows the CIA is “assisting” Qatar and Saudi Arabia to weaponize the “rebels”…

I did find it ironic that a WINEP-funded study couldn’t find an Iranian, but, did in fact find a dead American amongst the dead in Syria… Convoy of Martyrs in the Levant (PDF! 36p.) A Joint Study Charting the Evolving Role of Sunni Foreign Fighters in the Armed Uprising Against the Assad Regime in Syria

To wit: Majority of foreign fighters recently killed in Syria linked to front group for Al Qaeda…

…The majority of foreign fighters killed in Syria between July 2012 and May of this year were found to be fighting on behalf of a terrorist group that’s a front for Al Qaeda in Iraq, according to a new independent report by a security consulting firm that specializes in counterterrorism.

The report found at least 280 foreign fighters died in that time period.

Drawing on social media data, traditional media and internet platforms, the report called “Convoy of Martyrs in the Levant” by Flashpoint Global Partners concludes that the Syrian conflict is now drawing jihadiist fighters from the U.S., Chechnya, Kosovo, Egypt, Gaza, Jordan, Tunisia, Libya and Saudi Arabia.

“..The lion’s share of foreign fighters who are dying in Syria are fighting with the most hardline organization involved in the uprising: Jabhat al-Nusra,” the report said.;“The leader of Jabhat al-Nusra, Abu Mohammed al-Joulani, has recently publicly sworn allegiance to Al Qaeda leader Dr. Ayman Al-Zawahiri and the group has been blacklisted as a branch of Al Qaeda in Iraq by the United States government.”

From FP’s Marc Lynch…

Welcome to the Syrian Jihad

In a sermon on Friday, Islamist superstar theologian Yusuf al-Qaradawi called on all Muslims to launch “a jihad in Syria against Bashar al-Assad and Hezbollah, which are killing Sunnis and Christians and Kurds.”

Qaradawi declared that participation in a Syrian jihad was an individual obligation on every Muslim. He denounced Hezbollah, referring to it as “the party of Satan” and saying that it “want[s] continued massacres to kill Sunnis.” And he pushed deeper into sectarian hatred, labeling the Alawite sect, to which Assad belongs, as “worse infidels than Jews or Christians.”

What makes Qaradawi’s sectarian diatribe so disturbing is not that it represents some radical, new expression of extremism. It is that in today’s Arab world, there is nothing particularly distinctive about his comments at all. For many months, Arab and Muslim figures of all stripes have been loudly calling for support to the predominantly Sunni Syrian rebels, as have many Arab governments (and the United States and its allies, of course). The Muslim Brotherhood’s branches have strongly supported the Syrian opposition — acquiring too much power along the way, in the minds of some. Egyptian Salafis have described providing arms and funds to the Syrian rebels as “a form of worship” and killing Assad as a religious obligation. As the killing and destruction has escalated, such support for Syria’s rebels has rapidly morphed into extreme anti-Shiite and anti-Alawi rhetoric…

Interestingly… The No-Plan Zone

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by CTuttle

MENA Mashup: Reagan, Iraq, Syria, and,Tunisia

4:52 pm in Uncategorized by CTuttle

For some real retrospect… Reagan’s ‘Death Squad’ Tactics in Iraq

Official Washington has long ignored the genocide and terrorism that Ronald Reagan inflicted on Central America in the 1980s, making it easier to genuflect before the Republican presidential icon. That also helped Reagan’s “death squad” tactics resurface in Iraq last decade, as William Boardman reports…

…The hour-long film explores the arc of American counterinsurgency brutality from Vietnam to Iraq, with stops along the way in El Salvador and Nicaragua. James Steele is now a retired U.S. colonel who first served in Vietnam as a company commander in 1968-69. He later made his reputation as a military adviser in El Salvador, where he guided ruthless Salvadoran death squads in the 1980s.
When his country called again in 2003, he came out of retirement to train Iraqi police commandos in the bloodiest techniques of counterinsurgency that evolved into that country’s Shia-Sunni civil war that at its peak killed 3,000 people a month. Steele now lives in a gated golf community in Brian, Texas, and did not respond to requests for an interview for the documentary bearing his name.

News coverage of this documentary has been largely absent in mainstream media. The Guardian had a report, naturally, at the time of release and “Democracy Now” had a long segment on March 22 that includes an interview with veteran, award-winning reporter Maggie O’Kane, as well as several excerpts from the movie she directed. The documentary is available online at the Guardian and several other websites…

Ten years on… Syrian Rebel Faction Merges With al-Qaeda in Iraq

…Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), an official auxiliary of the parent al-Qaeda organization which was established to resist the US occupation of Iraq, has announced that it is formally merging with Jabhat al-Nusra.

Jabhat al-Nusra had been publicly endorsed by al-Qaeda officials repeatedly as the preferred Islamist faction in Syria’s ongoing rebellion. AQI says that the merged group will replace the name Islamic State of Iraq with Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.

It is time to declare to the Levant and to the world that the al-Nusra Front is simply a branch of the Islamic State of Iraq,” confirmed AQI leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Baghdadi went on to say other alliances were possible so long as the group agreed to similar harsh definitions of Sharia Law

Now, I was certainly surprised to see The Grey Lady publish this today…

Wider Use of Car Bombs Angers Both Sides in Syrian Conflict

…The attack, witnesses and the government authorities said, was the latest of dozens of car bombs to rip through Syrian business districts and neighborhoods during the country’s two-year war. It again turned a wary but busy downtown commercial area into a scene of terror and chaos. The Syrian government blamed its opponents for Monday’s attack and said it had killed at least 15 people and wounded at least 53.

The proliferation of car bombs across Syria has frightened and enraged many on both sides in this battle, government supporters and opponents alike. The use of these powerful and indiscriminate weapons — rejected by some rebel factions — has undermined support for the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad and left many Syrians angry at the government for failing to stop the bombings.

In Damascus, the Syrian capital, on Monday, some residents blamed the United States and its allies, which back the opposition, for the devastation…

“This is America, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia! They are funding those people to do those explosions!”

… In December 2011, when car bombs began hitting government security buildings — and killing civilians nearby — government supporters and opponents alike viewed the explosions as an ominous turn in the conflict.

Until then, the fighting had largely pitted rebels with small arms and roadside bombs against the army and security forces. But suddenly, the Syrian capital was witnessing scenes reminiscent of the Iraqi insurgency. Checkpoints and blast walls went up everywhere

…Now, the Nusra Front has become a major force on the battlefield, leading other rebel groups in more conventional fights. That poses a quandary for the United States, which supports the opposition but rejects the Nusra Front and accuses it of ties to Al Qaeda.

The bombs have killed Syrians of all sects and views

Now, in wrapping up, from the ‘Cradle of the Arab Spring’…

Tunisia Now Exporting “Jihadis”

…Families here told IPS that they have no way of contacting their sons once they leave — whether by choice or coercion they will never know — for the warring nation nearly 3,000 miles away. At most, family members receive an inaudible telephone call from Libya, where the soon-to-be militants are trained, the muffled voice on the other end of the line saying a quiet and final goodbye.

After that point, no news is good news. If they are contacted again, it will only be an anonymous caller announcing the death of a son, brother or husband, adding that the family should be proud of their martyred loved one…

…But beneath the moderate veneer, a strong ultra-conservative undercurrent remained, steered by Salafist-controlled mosques – like Fath, Ennassr, Ettadhamen, and the great mosque of Ben Arous located on the outskirts of Tunis – that are now serving as headquarters for the smuggling of fighters.

The imams of these mosques often hail from the Gulf and are skilled at convincing young men – who run the gamut from poor, uneducated Tunisians, to wealthy professionals — that they must “help their Syrian brothers” in the “jihad” against Assad.

Charity organisations like Karama wa Horrya, Arrahma, Horrya wa Insaf, which provide basic humanitarian assistance to the poor, also play a role in this network that gathers able-bodied Tunisians, transports them to Libya and then, after a brief stop in Turkey, sends them onwards to the frontlines of the Syrian war such as the north-western border with Lebanon, and the city of Aleppo.

Young fighters’ first point of contact in Syria is with the Jabhat al Nusra (meaning the ‘Support Front for the People of Syria’), considered the most aggressively militant arm of the FSA…

One final, must-read from Chris Hedges… When War Hawks Become Human Rights Officials…

Good Gawd, y’all…!

*gah*

by CTuttle

More Persian Fantasies…

7:45 pm in Uncategorized by CTuttle

From Seoul today… Obama: Window for diplomatic solution to nuclear Iran is closing

U.S. President Barack Obama said on Sunday there was still time to resolve the Iranian nuclear standoff through diplomacy, but that the window for such a solution was closing.

Obama reiterated his position on the Iran nuclear issue after talks with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on the eve of a nuclear security summit in Seoul.

“I believe there is a window of time to solve this diplomatically, but that window is closing,” Obama told reporters.

Obama has pressed Israel to hold off on any attack on Iran’s nuclear sites to give sanctions and diplomacy time to work, but has said military action remains an option if all else fails. {snip}

Obama and Erdogan also discussed providing medical supplies and communications support to the Syrian opposition but there was no talk of providing lethal aid for rebel forces, a U.S. official said. {snip}

“We worked on a common agenda in terms of how we can support both humanitarian efforts… (and) the efforts of Koffi Annan to bring about much needed change (in Syria),” Obama said after his meeting with Erdogan, a sharp critic of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

With regard to Iran, the U.S. president made similar remarks in a joint press conference British Prime Minister David Cameron a week and a half ago, when he warned window for a diplomatic solution was “shrinking”.

In those remarks, he encouraged Tehran to seize the opportunity of talks with world leaders to avert “even worse consequences.”

Here’s a recent snapshot of the economic sanctions…

Shell scrambles to pay huge bill for Iranian oil

…Royal Dutch Shell is struggling to pay off $1 billion that it owes Iran for crude oil because European Union and U.S. financial sanctions now make it almost impossible to process payments, industry sources said.

Four sources said the oil major owes a large sum to the National Iranian Oil Co (NIOC) for deliveries of crude, with one putting the figure at close to $1 billion. A debt of that size would equate to roughly four large tanker loads of Iranian crude or about 8 million barrels.

“Shell is working hard to figure out a way to pay NIOC,” said an industry source, who requested anonymity. “It’s very sensitive and very difficult. They want to stay on good terms with Iran, while abiding by sanctions.” {snip}

‘Pressure working’

Rigorous U.S. and European financial measures, aimed at punishing Iran for its nuclear program have already come into force, making it increasingly difficult to pay for and ship crude from Iran, say oil executives.

“There are big frustrations with the payment route – the U.S. pressure is really working,” said a senior oil source.

“It’s now nearly impossible to use the banking system.”

Funny how all this bovine manure is taking it’s toll on us too… Iran sanctions cause new oil shock, and, Sanctions against Iran put cloud over global growth

Now, about those purported Iranian Nukes and Amano’s bootlicking…

Current Chief of IAEA Releases Its Brakes on Rush to War With Iran

“Amano’s director-generalship began under a bad star.”

That’s Julian Borger at the Guardian quoting Mark Hibbs, the journalist who helped take down the AQ Khan nuclear-weapons black market and is now with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Yukio Amano, the “head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the nuclear watchdog at the heart of the growing Iranian crisis,” Borger explains, “has been accused by several former senior officials of pro-western bias, over-reliance on unverified intelligence and of sidelining sceptics.” {snip}

Previous director Mohamed ElBaradei was noted for his objections to IAEA findings being used as a pretext for ultimatums and/or war with Iran. Borger also reminds us of those WikiLeaks cables that confirmed suspicions about Amano almost too perfectly.

[They] revealed Amano’s assiduous courting of American support. In an October 2009 cable, the US charge d’affaires, Geoffrey Pyatt, wrote: “Amano reminded [the] ambassador on several occasions that he would need to make concessions to the G-77 [the developing countries group], which correctly required him to be fair-minded and independent, but that he was solidly in the US court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.”

Not sure of the exact motivations for Amano’s bootlicking, but there it is for the world to see. Confirming Amano’s toadyism toward the United States

… the IAEA’s reports on Iranian behaviour have become steadily more critical. In November, it published an unprecedented volume of intelligence pointing towards past Iranian work on developing a nuclear weapon, deeming it credible.

However, some former IAEA officials are saying that the agency has gone too far. Robert Kelley, a former US weapons scientists who ran the IAEA action team on Iraq at the time of the US-led invasion, said. … “Amano is falling into the Cheney trap. What we learned back in 2002 and 2003, when we were in the runup to the war, was that peer review was very important, and that the analysis should not be left to a small group of people,” Kelley said. “… Just like [former US vice-president] Dick Cheney, Amano is relying on a very small group of people and those opinions are not being checked.”

…Compared to Dick Cheney, shamed by WikiLeaks, Yukio Amano is the wrong man for the wrong job at the wrong time. ElBaradei won the Nobel Prize; Amano is angling for the Ignoble Prize.

Speaking of the Shrub/Darth Cheney War Cabal… Condoleezza Rice suggests Iran plan for White House

…“The most important thing is to make very clear to the Iranians that we really will not allow them to get a nuclear weapon. That means that you have to have a military option that you are prepared to use and that the Iranians know that you are prepared to use. And you can’t send mixed signals about that,” the former secretary of state said on “Fox & Friends.” “It’s got to be a very strong message and it’s got to be unequivocal.”

Asked to explain what she meant by the “mixed signals” coming out of the Obama administration, Rice noted, “The president has said he has a military option and he means he will use it, but then you do get the back stories and the whispers here and there and occasionally someone questioning whether or not the military option is a real option — and the Iranians just eat that up.

She added, “So let’s have one message from the president that we will use military force if necessary.

Now in an ironic twist, the rabid Zionist Rabbi Eliezer Melamed advocates against striking Iran, but, for all the wrong reasons…

It’s Hard to Trust Netanyahu and Barak on Iran

…Even if the State of Israel succeeds in destroying the Iranian nuclear facilities, such an action apparently will not cancel this dangerous phenomenon, but merely postpone the date that Iran and other hostile states acquire nuclear weapons.

Today, countries such as India, China, Pakistan, and North Korea already possess nuclear weapons. The entire world must learn to deal with threats of this magnitude, and in this respect, our situation is not significantly different from that of many other countries. Given this fact, the statements of the Prime Minister and the Defense Minister that Iranian nuclear weapons are an existential threat to the State of Israel are simply not true. They are one threat in a chain of many others… {snip}

…In other words, precisely with regard to Iran’s main threat against us, via Hizbullah and other terrorist organizations in Gaza operating on their behalf, the State of Israel reveals incompetence, eroding its deterrence to an absolute minimum, until our enemies have the nerve to liken the State of Israel to a “cobweb”.

Our weak image was intensified as a result of the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, and our ongoing incompetence against the rocket attacks from there.

In order to deal with the threats and dangers, we have to create deterrence built less on the verbal bravado of Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon, and Binyamin Netanyahu, and based more on determined actions against those who actually attack us.

Strengthening Our Control of the Land

Nevertheless, painful military punishment is not enough. As a result of a lack of clarity concerning our ambitions in the Land of Israel, we invite threats and dangers upon ourselves, leading our enemies to believe that we will continue to withdraw until the State of Israel is eradicated, God forbid.

Therefore, the correct response to a missile attack from Gaza or Lebanon should also include applying Israeli sovereignty over additional parts of the Land of Israel, and strengthening construction in Judea and Samaria…

That folks is the epitome of Zionism…!

Some common sense prevails at the Guardian… Bomb Iran and it will surely decide to pursue nuclear arms…

Even the Grey Lady seemed to have experienced a momentary lapse in their usual warmongering…

The False Debate About Attacking Iran

I wonder if we in the news media aren’t inadvertently leaving the impression that there is a genuine debate among experts about whether an Israeli military strike on Iran makes sense this year.

There really isn’t such a debate. Or rather, it’s the same kind of debate as the one about climate change — credible experts are overwhelmingly on one side… {snip}

…Let’s also remember that as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu bangs the drums of war, that may empower Iranian hawks. “The continual threat of a military strike is as likely to convince them to move ahead as to deter them,” Slaughter notes.

Whether Israel will attack Iranian nuclear sites is one of this year’s crucial questions, and people in the know seem to think the odds are about 50-50. We don’t know that the economy would be harmed or that a war would unfold, but anyone who is confident about what would happen is a fool.

So as we hear talk about military action against Iran, let’s be clear about one thing. Outside Netanyahu’s aides and a fringe of raptors, just about every expert thinks that a military strike at this time would be a catastrophically bad idea. That’s not a debate, but a consensus.

Meanwhile, in Israel… Israel beefs up border security ahead of Global March to Jerusalem

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is gearing up for massive protests and possible infiltration attempts along its borders as part of the Global March to Jerusalem rallies on Friday, local media reported on Sunday.

IDF’s preparations are based on the “Summer Seeds” operation prepared by the army to contain any riots during last year’s Palestinian statehood bid.

Soldiers have been deployed along Israel’s borders in order to prevent any infiltration attempts, after pro-Palestinian activists called for a Global March to Jerusalem the coming Friday.

The call urges participants to try to storm into Israel by sheer force, such as during the Palestinians’ Nakba (disaster in Arabic) and Naksa (setback) day events, on May 15 and June 5 respectively, when dozens of protesters were killed trying to infiltrate into Israel from Syria and Lebanon.

Soldiers have also been instructed to cause minimum harm, if needed, to protesters in order to avoid any more flare-ups, the Ynet news service reported.

Thousands of pro-Palestinian activists arrived in Damascus on Sunday to participate in the protest, and it is expected that there will be infiltration attempts on the borders with Lebanon and Syria, where the IDF has already reinforced the fences.

God Speed and God Bless…!

by CTuttle

UN Report: Gaza Blockade Legal, IDF Used Excessive Force

6:31 pm in Uncategorized by CTuttle

Sorry, my Grandson’s birth has kept me distracted from blogging on the I/P…

Today, the Grey Lady leaked the Palmer Report a day early. From the Guardian…

UN investigation backs Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza

Report backs Israel’s right to defend itself but says assault on pro-Palestinian flotilla was ‘excessive and unreasonable’

A United Nations investigation has backed Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza as legal but said its military assault on a flotilla of pro-Palestinian activists last year, in which nine Turks were killed, was “excessive and unreasonable”.

The report notes that Israel has not satisfactorily explained how it is that most of the dead were shot multiple times, including in the back, and at close range. But it also said the organisers of the flotilla acted “recklessly” in attempting to breach the blockade.

The report is expected to be released on Friday after months of delay because of a dispute between Israel and Turkey over its contents and Ankara’s demand for an apology from Israel for the deaths of its citizens…

I will say that a UN report that states something is legal, does not make it necessarily so. Let’s put it before the World Court at The Hague. They’ve already taken a dim view on the earlier West Bank Barrier Wall…

Now, my favorite Knesset Member gave a great response to the Palmer report…

MK Zoabi: Try Israel’s leaders over flotilla raid

Arab politician unimpressed by UN report on flotilla incident, insists Gaza blockade illegal

“Those who sent the army to stop the flotilla should be persecuted and brought before international tribunals,” Zoabi said. “Breaching the blockade is the moral, political and humane obligation of anyone who believes people must not remain silent over the occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people.”

Yes, let’s put Bibi and Barak in the Docket…!

Here is a great Legal Analysis on the Gaza Blockade…

Today, Al Jazeera published a great look at all the legalese behind the Pro and Cons on the Palestinian Statehood bid… Palestinian statehood opinion causes uproar.

And continuing with the legalese, Philip Giraldi, had also published an explosive report today… Israel Wages Lawfare Against Gaza Flotilla…

…Amid all the sound and fury, it is important to recall that none of the vessels involved in the 2010 flotilla incident ever reached either Israeli or Gazan territory. They were intercepted in international waters. At that point, the passengers and crews had done absolutely nothing, illegal or otherwise. When the boats were hauled into the port of Ashdod, no weapons were found on any vessel.

Defining the flotilla’s organizers as terrorism supporters is a cheap trick, but if it passes muster in Israel, all it takes is an American judge or prosecutor to buy into the argument and bring about an indictment of any American citizen who tries to break Israel’s Gaza blockade. Eric Holder would hardly object, and it is not unimaginable that the Justice Department would make criticism of Israel de facto and de jure a crime in the United States. Could the accused be convicted in an American court “of terrorism support” given that they had done nothing illegal, particularly in light of their First Amendment rights? Maybe not, but stranger things have happened in the past 10 years. Since lawfare as practiced by Shurat HaDin is little more than an instrument to intimidate and threaten, dragging flotilla participants into court and forcing them to pay for lawyers will be seen as a victory. More disturbing than the actions of obvious Israeli partisans like Nitsana Darshan-Leitner is the willingness of the Obama administration to go along with the charade and the enthusiasm of Republican governor and presidential wannabe Rick Perry to join in. When the U.S. criminal justice system falls in line and plays the Israeli game, we will all be in trouble.

It is spooky what is afoot…!

*gah*